Education is suffering from the inverted funnel syndrome
If you pour a liquid into the narrow end of the funnel, it will fall all over the place as it will come out from the wider end of the funnel and you will have to scramble to catch a few drops of it before it falls to the floor. Much of what will come out will thus be lost.
Now imagine that what you are pouring into the narrow end of the funnel is the knowledge that you want to impart to your students. Naturally, your students will have to be hustling to catch a few morsels of it, the rest will be lost. The irony here is that what they could succeed in catching will be so disjointed that it will make no sense to them. Everything will be meaningless and incoherent.
As teachers, we need to gather and condense knowledge and then pour it through the wider end of the funnel so it reaches the student in its totality through the narrow end of the funnel. Such knowledge will be cohesive and therefore comprehensible. The key here is condensing knowledge so students can get a bird's eye view and then they expand and elaborate it further.
I am designing this type of curricula for science. Condensing science subjects and removing redundancies from them has enabled me to reduce science to 150 fundamental concepts and skills. This is a far cry from the general belief that since science is so complex, it must be based on hundreds if not thousands of concepts and skills. This turned out to be not so. It only appeared that way because science has grown haphazardly and sporadically and no effort was made to find common denominators of what was learned and discovered and how all of it could be put together into a "teachable whole."
When science was taught via the 150 concepts and skills way, and these concepts and skills were presented chronologically with a historic prospective, science became very exciting
These concepts and skills also turned out to be the tools that scientists use to do science. Knowing these enables a student to "think and do science." Students thus become analytical and problem solvers.
Unexpectedly also this curriculum has put science at par with music and art. Students opt for music or art because they understand that what they do with a guitar or a violin or a crayon manifests into something tangible that they can see and feel. Progressively they begin to visualize that by modifying and manipulating what they do with the guitar or the violin or the crayon, they can make different music and different portraits or landscapes. Knowing the rules, they dare to become creative going into improvising and composing and on the art side, daring to progress from the real to the surreal.
This, our present science curriculum does not allow them to do with science.
Books with abstract ideas which go way above their heads only force them to memorize to meet the graduating requirements. This tragedy happens during or soon after the ninth grade when students opt out of science believing that they were "not good enough for science." This psychological trauma haunts them the rest of their lives but they suffer through it quietly for who among us would want to admit our shortcomings. Much potential is thus unnecessarily lost.
The integrated science curriculum consisting of 150 concepts and skills is capable of not only preventing that trauma from occurring but is also capable of reversing it. Thus, those who ran away from science during the ninth grade can very well return to it provided they were reintroduced to science via the 150 concepts and skills.
Soon, I will be making arrangements to introduce this integrated curriculum to teachers in the Chicago area via The Science Center that I have established which will serve as a learning center as well as a clearing house of ideas and dialogue.
To begin with, the Center will be offering workshops to teachers preparing them to teach integrative science. To participate in these workshops, please reply via E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and send your name, grade you teach, your school affiliation, mailing address, phone number, Fax number, and E-mail address. You will then be notified of the time and place of workshops. You can also stay abreast of the developments by visiting our website: www.iibbt.com.
Riaz-ul Haque, PhD